Hello everyone! I am here today with an article dedicated to my favorite deck in the Standard format: Gardevoir/Sylveon. I spent a good part of my last article on this deck, along with Golisopod and the matchup between them. I received a lot of positive feedback on the article, especially on the Golisopod vs. Gardevoir section, so I figured I would dedicate an entire article to something like that. I hope you enjoy and please give any feedback or criticism!
Over the weekend I posted in HeyFonte what I consider to be the “definitive list” for this deck right now. I think I ruffled some feathers by sounding a bit too arrogant. Now, I am not so conceited to recognize that we can’t make some changes to the list and appeal to players’ personal preferences and play styles, so I will discuss possible changes. With that said, I will also give my reasoning for why I think the list is optimal. I have not felt so confident in a list in a long time! First, though, let’s look at some recent results to give some justification behind my claims.
Before my last article, Lex D’Andrea beat me in Top 8 of a League Cup, going on to win the event. I took his deck and won the Cup the next day. I spent the next two weeks testing out little changes in the list to get to a more refined list for Hartford. We ended up changing only a few cards and you can see the list we ended up playing: Sam made Top 4 and Pablo made Top 16 with one card different. Myself and our other teammate Spencer Nalle played the same list as Sam, with Spencer getting Top 32 and myself going 5-2-2 for 103rd place. Here were my matches in Hartford:
R1: WW Gardevoir-GX (no Sylveon)
R2: LWT Metagross-GX
R3: WW Volcanion-EX
R4: WLW Gardevoir-GX (no Sylveon)
R5: WLL Gardevoir-GX (1-1 Sylveon) (Noel Totomoch)
R6: WW Metagross-GX
R7: WW Metagross-GX (with 1-1 Solgaleo) (Tristan Macek)
R8: LWL Espeon-GX/Garbodor
R9: WLT Golisopod-GX/Gumshoos-GX (John Chimento)
Between my teammates and I, we agreed I had the toughest schedule. I was very fortunate to go 2-0-1 against Metagross, but taking the losses to Espeon/Garb and the mirror were unfortunate. In both of those sets I had one game where I drew/passed and lost a quick game, splitting the other two close games. In my game three against Noel, I made the mistake that ended up costing me the tournament: I went first and got T1 Brigette and Energy to a benched Eevee to get Sylveon. He T1 Brigette’d as well. I used Guzma to bring up a Ralts, attached DCE, and took a KO. In his three card hand he had Candy+Gardevoir+Sycamore into Fairy+DCE+Choice Band to KO me, and I fell too far behind in the game. I got a bit greedy there and should have just used Magical Ribbon to set myself up.
One quick note about my ties and ties in general right now: I felt incentive to tie in both round two and round nine. In round two, I lost the first game to an unfavorable matchup, so I kept my pace of play consistent but not overly fast. I was happy to walk out with a tie. In the last round, I knew a tie would guarantee me points, and though I would have likely won game three, I was happy to just receive points at that point. Going forward, if we continue to have these 700-900 person Regionals where you need to go 7-2 to make Day 2, I think this mentality may be outdated. Even against Metagross, perhaps I should have just gone for the win or loss by playing faster. Something to think about for sure.
Though my Hartford run ended a bit lackluster, I was excited to have the opportunity to cast some games on Day 2 with Cora, a well known Hearthstone caster. I had a blast casting and would love to get an opportunity again in the future to commentate. (Check out the VODs here and here).
This past weekend, I convinced my girlfriend to go to a Cup with me down in Maryland (she lives in Baltimore) as a compromise for not traveling down to Daytona. She ended up being a good luck charm! (Also shout out to Brent Halliburton for teaching her to play!) I won the event, playing my teammate Spencer in the finals, using 58 of the same cards. Here were my matches on the day:
R1: W Bye
R2: W Mirror (58-59 card mirror)
R3: W Mirror (no Sylveon)
R4: W Mirror (58-59 card mirror)
It seems like many others have found League Cup success with some form of the list as well, such as Kyle Sabelhaus winning one this past weekend as well. He used the same 60 I did on Saturday, which now looks like the following:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 29
Energy – 12
While I think this is the most streamlined, optimal list, we can consider tailoring the deck to specific metagames and/or preferences. Let us first look at what cards we can potentially cut, then what we could add.
- 2nd Brigette: While I have come around on including two copies of this card in here, it is still the most cuttable card in the deck. I will discuss some of the math and reasoning for including the second copy below, but this still feels like the biggest luxury card to me.
- 2nd Float Stone: I am less of a fan of cutting a Float Stone, but Pablo did it and found success with it, so I will trust him. Float Stone gives the deck a lot of mobility. It is useful both in pivoting into Sylveon if you do not open Eevee, as well as on Sylveon, so you can retreat it for free instead of two. Float Stone is always welcome on an Octillery. Extra Float Stone make your Espeon-GX matchup better as well.
- Rescue Stretcher: This card could be a Super Rod, but both recovery cards are quite frankly pretty weak the majority of the time. It seems like you need to play one to safeguard against weird hands where you must Sycamore or Ultra Ball away key pieces. When these situations do not come up, though, this spot can feel very dead.
- Acerola: I had two of these in the list in my last article and it is a very good card. Cutting down to one has felt fine for the most part, and when I have played with 0, I miss it about half the time.
- Remoraid + Octillery: These can only be cut if you are replacing them with Oranguru and something else, but I am not a fan of this as I will discuss later.
- 4th Professor Sycamore: We played max copies of Sycamore in Hartford and I still think it is good. Sam even said “there is no way I would play this deck without 4 Sycamore.” I now think the 2nd Brigette is better than the 4th Sycamore, but could be swayed back into the other camp.
- 2nd Parallel City: Parallel City has been an amazing inclusion in the deck for a number of reasons. First, and most obviously, it allows you to have huge swing turns using Parallel + Plea GX. In general, however, limiting your opponent to three benched Pokémon at any point during the game— especially on the first turn or two—can put them in an awkward spot. I have been on the giving and receiving end of a T1 Parallel in the mirror match, and it is not fun. Finally, Parallel can be used to limit your own bench, discarding damaged Pokémon or Tapu Leles to avoid giving your opponent easy prizes. This effect is doubly helpful against decks like Volcanoin, Ho-Oh/Salazzle, and Golisopod, as you also limit their damage output. With Fire decks running low counts of Field Blower, sometimes you can reduce their damage by 20 for the rest of the game once Parallel hits the field. A second copy of Parallel would be great to more consistently hit it earlier in the game, as well as give you versatility in which side you want to play it.
- 9th Fairy Energy: This was in my list during the first League Cup, but I have not missed it all too much. It is great to have the early Energy so you can grab Sylveon via Energy Evolution, but the 9th Fairy does not increase the percentages all too much.
- Super Rod: We played this over Rescue Stretcher in Hartford and I am still torn. As I said, both cards are usually pretty weak. We ran Super Rod to compensate for the 9th Fairy being cut, but I think Stretcher may just be the better card.
- Mr. Mime: This was in our Hartford list until the morning of, where we cut it for the 4th Professor Sycamore. To put it simply, Mr. Mime, just does not help against the most popular decks; it helps against fringe decks. If your local area has a lot of Ninetales, Vikabulu, or Decidueye, you can consider putting it back in. Note that it does not help against Garb decks with Koko, as Garbotoxin nullifies Mr. Mime.
- Giratina Promo: Like Mr. Mime, but even more niche. You could argue Greninja is a more difficult matchup than the aforementioned decks that Mime is good in, so perhaps Giratina is more worth the spot.
I have a strong opinion that Octillery is the better card in this deck. While Oranguru certainly has its upsides (a Basic, a secondary non-EX/GX attacker), Octillery lets you see so many cards throughout the course of a game, match, and tournament. Though I have always favored Octillery, this became crystal clear to me when I played against Xander in some testing games. When I was using Oranguru, Xander beat me 3-2 using Ho-Oh/Salazzle. After I switched to Octillery, I went 3-0 against him.
The Fire decks put on so much pressure that you need all the extra cards you can in order to keep pace. While this may be the extreme example, this philosophy extends to other matchups as well. Volcanion and Golisopod can put a lot of pressure on and in the mirror there are turns where you need to find a bunch of cards to get a return KO. Octillery also lets you play late game N’s with even more insurance and without needing Gallade to find the pieces you need to close out the game.
There has been a significant amount of debate around this count as well. The math is roughly as follows: with four Ultra Ball, three Tapu Lele, and a single Brigette, you are able to Brigette turn one about 60% of the time. With two Brigette, you are able to Brigette turn one about 70% of the time. One of the key —that is, you do not need to use Wonder Tag for it.
With a single Brigette, you naturally open it about 12.6% of the time. With two Brigette, the percentage jumps to almost 24%! (source) Being able to start with a Brigette without having to search out Tapu Lele in one out of four games or so is quite amazing and is the biggest selling point for the extra copy of Brigette. It obviously has the added benefit of now prizing both Brigette 1/100 games instead of 1/10, but that is not as important as the huge jump in starting with it naturally.
Finally, out of all decks in the format, I think this deck has the most incentive to play an extra Brigette. Since we play Sylveon, it can more readily Brigette with no other Supporters in hand, as we can Energy Evolution into Sylveon and grab a Supporter on our first Magical Ribbon. Our opponent will often even N that away, giving us a free hand without wasting a supporter!
One of the most difficult components of playing this deck is choosing the correct cards on Magical Ribbon. Though sometimes the picks are obvious – you have a Gardevoir in hand, three Ralts on the bench, so you grab Candy, Candy, Gardevoir – many times they are not. I wish I could give you some hard and fast rules for choosing cards using Magical Ribbon, but this is something that will have to be figured out through testing. That said, here are a couple things I find myself commonly searching for:
- Candy + Gardevoir. Again, this should be obvious. This is the reason we play 4 Rare Candy and 2 Kirlia as opposed to a 3/3 split. The ability to quickly get Gardevoir out allows you to attach more Energy over the course of the game.
- Field Blower or Parallel City. As low counts in the deck, it can be huge to search out these cards. Field Blower against Garbodor decks can be essential to helping you continue to set up and put pressure on your opponent. Parallel City can be searched out and played as simply a tempo tool to put your opponent back, or to help set up a crushing Parallel + Plea-GX play. If I am going for the latter, my Magical Ribbon will often include Guzma and DCE as well.
- DCE. Though we play four of these, it can be one of the most important cards to find in the early game. Whether it is going on a Sylveon to Fairy Wind or Plea-GX, or going to be attached to a Gardevoir to reach for a OHKO, ensuring you have access to a DCE in the early game can be crucial to keeping up with your opponent. If I am not grabbing Candy + Gardevoir with the DCE, Guzma and Choice Band will often accompany this pick to help set up an important KO.
In other card games, such as Hearthstone, decks are often classified as “Aggro,” “Midrange,” or “Control.” In general, Aggro>Midrange>Control>Aggro. In Pokémon, this does not appear quite as much, as the game is all about tempo. However, we can still see some examples of this (ex. Volcanion would be considered an aggressive deck while something like Accelgor/Wobbufett would be considered a Control deck). One of the amazing things about this Gardevoir deck is that it can take on the role of both the aggressor or the control deck, thanks to Sylveon. Keep that in mind as you read through the matchups and play your games—if you are playing against an aggressive deck (i.e. Volcanion), you will want to adopt a slower, more control-style of play. However, against other slower decks (i.e. Metagross, Greninja), you will want to start putting the pressure on early with Sylveon and clean up later in the game with Gardevoir.
- With Sylveon
- Your ideal six basic Pokémon in the first two turns will be three Ralts, Eevee, Remoraid, and Tapu Lele GX (assuming you needed to Wonder Tag—if not, even better!). It is incredibly important to keep three Ralts/Kirlia/Gardevoir on the field against another Sylveon variant of the deck. This is due to the power of Plea-GX. If they catch you with only two, they can Plea and leave you with no Gardevoir option the next turn. Though you can come back from this, it is a big hole to crawl out of.
- Gallade is incredible to go aggressive with in the early game. If you can get an early Gallade+DCE+Guzma on an opponent’s Ralts or Kirlia, go for it. It will require them to devote three Energy to a Gardevoir to respond, which you can then respond with your own Gardevoir for an easier OHKO. If they do not deal with Gallade, it can easily take down two Ralts/Kirlia and you can go way ahead. This will allow you to more easily find a good Plea turn as the game progresses.
- Octillery is important, but not until the middle stages of the game. You must prioritize the Gardevoir and Sylveon lines in the early game, so you can chill on finding Remoraid early if you have to.
- Parallel City, at any point during the game, can be back-breaking. Even if you are not going to Plea, a great play is to Guzma up their Tapu Lele and Parallel them. This forces them into either discarding Sylveon, Octillery, or going down to two Gardevoir lines. None of these are ideal. Follow this up with a simple Magical Ribbon and your opponent has been put in a very awkward situation.
- Perhaps this is obvious, but do not attach more Energy than you need to. I will often hold Energy in my hand if I know I cannot reach the KO, so the opponent has less of a chance (or no chance) to take a OHKO on me the next turn. Keeping an Energy or two on each of your benched Gardevoir is good to threaten KOs if they send their Gardevoir up to attack first. In a similar vein, the longer you can hold Choice Band, the better.
- If your opponent is playing Oranguru (or had to discard Octillery, or you KOed it, or whatever) and you have Octillery, abuse N in the late game. If you can make N be more crippling to your opponent than you, then you can come back from a weaker board state. Guzma to KO Octillery is sometimes the correct play for this reason.
- Without Sylveon
- This is much of the same, but you can be a bit more lenient on finding three Ralts in the early game. Going for two Ralts, Eevee, or Remoraid off the first Brigette can often be correct.
- Ironically, Sylveon is a bit weaker against the non-Sylveon mirror. They will not waste a Brigette spot on getting an Eevee, so they will more often have 3+ Ralts on the field. This makes Plea more awkward.
- I won’t cover this matchup extensively, as I covered it well in my last article.
- One thing I want to note is the power of Sylveon in the early game, especially if you go first. It allows you to deal with Tapu Koko spreading damage on your guys without exposing a Gardevoir or Gallade to First Impression damage. It also can allow you to KO a lone Wimpod or Trubbish if your opponent only gets one of those out early on.
- I should also note that straight Golisopod/Octillery has been gaining some traction. While a lot of what I said in my last article applies, this matchup does have some slight differences—for better and worse. Without Garbodor, you have constant access to Secret Spring and Abyssal Hand throughout the game, making it easier to reach for OHKOs on Golisopods. However, your opponent is not Garbotoxined either, so they can more easily fish for their Acerolas and Guzmas to close out the game. It is important to not let your opponent go down to two prizes if you have a Lele sitting on the bench and they have not used their GX attack. Otherwise, you are putting your fate in them never missing Band+DCE+Guzma to Crossing Cut for the win.
- Though Volcanion and Ho-oh/Salazze are two very different decks, the way you approach the matchup as Gardevoir is similar enough in each. I will note some differences but will discuss both together.
- First, I would recommend watching Sam’s Top 8 and Top 4 matches against Ryan and Igor, respectively. They showcase both the ways to win and lose the matchup (not that Sam played Top 4 incorrectly—it is just possible to lose the matchup!)
- In general, you want to approach this matchup with an early Sylveon to search out set up cards and take a few hits. Fire plays less N than any other deck in the format, allowing Magical Ribbon to stick more often. Getting quick Gardevoirs to respond to their Ho-oh or other big Energy attacker can end the game quickly.
- The name of this matchup is Guzma, Guzma, Guzma. Both sides will be trying to find their Guzmas on key turns: Fire in the early game to take cheap prizes on Ralts/Kirlia and make it more difficult for you to set up multiple Gardevoirs later. As Gardevoir, you want to find Guzma to OHKO Turtonator, Ho-oh, or Volcanion-EX before it threatens the OHKO on Gardevoir itself.
- Both sides of Parallel City are killer against Fire decks. Ho-oh typically does not play Field Blower, so the -20 side is particularly good against them. Both sides are good against Volcanion, but the limit bench side is usually more correct, as we saw Sam and Pablo use it very effectively in their rounds on stream. Volcanion needs more benched Pokémon to hit the high damage output necessary to OHKO Gardevoirs. Forcing them to choose between an extra Volcanion EX or Oranguru can be a devastating decision for them to make.
- As the game progresses, N is especially effective against these decks. Ho-oh does not thin the deck as much as other decks, so N can hit harder and stick more often. With Octillery, you see a lot more cards in the late game and it becomes easier for you to piece together OHKOs. As I mentioned earlier, Octillery really shines in this matchup and is one of the main reasons I consider it better than Oranguru.
- Last thing to note is the Enhanced Hammers in the Volcanion build that did well in Hartford. Sam asked me how to play against this deck and I simply responded “the same way you play against any Volcanion deck.” Though Hammers can be annoying, you usually save your DCE for turns where you need to hit OHKO numbers anyway, so Hammers only punish having to play a DCE down earlier than you want (i.e. before a Sycamore).
- This is a super scary matchup! Though I still think it is about 50-50, you can easily lose a game that looked favorable for you. Po Town damage can add up quickly if you cannot find a Field Blower or Parallel City. Thus, your early Magical Ribbons should be looking for these cards to help minimize the early damage you may receive.
- Drampa/Garbodor seeks to be a midrange deck—that is, it is a bit weak in the early game and late game, but tries to win the game “in the middle” of the game. Gardevoir can take advantage of this, then, by trying to beat Drampa in the early game by taking KOs with Sylveon, and the late game, by taking big OHKOs with Gardevoirs. I find I win most of my games where I go aggressive with Sylveon to take two KOs, usually on a Tapu Koko, Trubbish, or Garbotoxin Garbodor. This allows Gardevoir in the later game to only have to KO two GX-Pokémon. When Drampa has three Energy attached to it, this becomes very easy for Gardevoir to accomplish. Gallade is also great for taking easy OHKOs on Drampa.
- You must be very careful of the Espeon-EX + Po Town lock in these games. Evolving via Kirlia early on is great, but can also lead to extra damage from Po Town. Having extra copies of Rare Candy is actually really strong to be able to go right into a Gallade or Gardevoir and threaten OHKOs on Espeon-EX or other two-prize Pokémon. Note, sometimes it is correct to not even evolve your Pokémon! I had a game in my cup where I had 50 damage on a Kirlia and for multiple turns I opted not to evolve into Gardevoir, though I had it in my hand, as it would bring my damage up to 80 and be devolved for a KO. But with only 50 damage on it, Miraculous Shine would not KO the Ralts.
- Overall, this matchup is very grindy and requires you to piece together six prizes in sometimes very odd ways. Tapu Lele is a great attacker, as it cannot be devolved and still puts a lot pressure on the opponent.
- Like Drampa/Garb, Metagross shines in the midgame. It is slow to set up and is susceptible to late game N’s if it does not have three Metagross set up, so as the Gardevoir player, you want to exploit these weaknesses. Using Gallade or Sylveon to take some cheap prizes in the early game is important—the more Beldum/Metang you get rid of in the first few turns, the less opportunities for Metagross to come out as the game progresses. You can usually take two prizes before they get their first Metagross or two out.
- Once they have a couple Metagross out, Metagross will likely take four swift prizes. This will allow you to N them to low counts, where they will need to hit Energy and other resources to keep up, as you should be limiting them to two or less Metagross at this point.
- You will want to keep a Gardevoir with three Energy on it as much as possible, as this threatens an OHKO on Metagross: three from your Gardevoir, three from their Metagross, DCE + Secret Spring for the turn and you have reached the nine Energy required for an OHKO.
- Plea-GX obviously shines here. If you can take some easy prizes as I said before, you can often limit them to just two Beldum/Metang/Metagross. This is when you want to Plea-GX. Sometimes the initial Sylveon gets OHKOed before you can Plea and it is correct to set up a second Sylveon to threaten Plea. I will say, though, that you can win this matchup without Plea: simply the threat of Plea can force your opponent into making suboptimal plays.
- Gallade is an incredible card in this matchup to tag Metagross or Tapu Lele for significant damage while only giving up one prize. Your opponent can attempt to Guzma around it, but then Gallade will come back and hit for 130 again for only a DCE. With constant N’s as the game progresses, they will eventually wiff the Guzma and you will force them to take a KO on the Gallade. In a similar vein, Tapu Lele can put pressure on the Metagross player while forcing them to find a Choice Band to take the OHKO.
The last three matchups I have less experience with, but I will give a few tidbits of information from my limited testing.
- Plea is incredible early game to counter Greninjas evolved from Water Duplicates Frogadiers. Without multiple Froakie on the bench, the Greninja player will be hard pressed to put their Frogadier back on the field. Sylveon also can put on great early game pressure, easily netting 1-3 prizes on Froakies and Frogadiers. Gallade can be useful to hit 130 easily on Greninjas. Once multiple BREAK start hitting the field, though, this matchup can get out of hand quickly.
- If you can use Gallade to OHKO Vikavolts early in the game, you are looking good. Sylveon can then Plea remaining Grubbin/Vikavolts off the field and alleviate the pressure while you set up your Gardevoirs. Without Tapu Koko Promo, the Vikavolt player cannot hit the 230 necessary to OHKO a Gardevoir. The Clefairy and Tapu Koko-GX techs can hit you hard, but if you are aware your opponent plays these cards, it is relatively easy to play around them. Late game N’s can hurt them since they play no Octillery and fewer draw supporters than other decks.
- Like the Drampa matchup, Ninetales looks to take advantage of Gardevoir in a number of ways. First, they try to spread damage and devolve, using Tapu Koko, Po Town, and Espeon-EX. Second, they have Alolan Ninetales to Safeguard against anything except Gallade. Finally, they have a big attacker in Alolan-Ninetales-GX that can take easy KOs on Tapu Lele or damaged Gardevoirs. While in theory this matchup seems scary, I find it usually winnable. Gardevoir can easily take OHKOs on Alolan Ninetales-GX, even after a Blizzard Edge discarding Energy. Gallade OHKOs baby Alolan Ninetales and Sylveon can deal with early Tapu Kokos. Parallel can be good in this matchup both ways, to reduce damage and discard damaged Pokémon from your bench, or to limit them and perhaps force them to get rid of their Octillery.
Though there are other matchups in the format, I think these are the key ones to be aware of going into Vancouver.
The end of a format is always bittersweet: deck lists have finally been optimized, but then we need to look towards the new set. In this case, we have two new sets to consider! I have not looked too much into Shining Legends or Crimson Invasion just yet, but Zoroark-GX looks to obviously be a big change in the format. Crimson Invasion will bring Counter Energy and a slew of new Trainers which will also certainly shake up the format and how we build decks. The winter season looks to be quite interesting.
I will not be attending any major tournaments for awhile now. None of the winter Regionals are particularly close to me, and while I enjoy playing in big tournaments, I need to weigh the travel and time costs associated with traveling to these big events. I have 170 points already, so I just need to consistently place in League Cups for the rest of the year and I should hit my 400 points without much difficulty. It is looking like St. Louis, North Carolina, or Portland could be one of my next Regionals. I will certainly be in Roanoke in May.
I hope you enjoyed my Gardevoir analysis. Good luck to those playing in Vancouver—I highly recommend this deck and would obviously play it if I were going!
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